Building capacity to successfully bolster efforts to engage students in the democratic process can be a significant challenge. Identifying allies already on your campus can be a key first step. This year, the Office of Civic & Service-Learning (OCSL) at Middlesex Community College (MCC) partnered with our MASSPIRG chapter for our Voter Registration and Get Out The Vote initiatives. Our partnership focused on leveraging our shared resources to engage our students in the 2018 Midterm elections by providing opportunities for students to learn about our democratic system, register to vote, and identify ways they can work to create change.
Prior to the start of the fall semester, OCSL and MASSPIRG spent time discussing our plans for the midterm elections, identifying our strengths, and determining how we could best utilize our resources to engage our students in the upcoming elections. Our first priority was to register MCC students to vote. We began by planning our National Voter Registration Day events on both the Bedford and Lowell campuses. Ultimately, we decided to table throughout the day at both campuses. OCSL was able to market the events throughout the college and provide materials (i.e. voter registration forms in multiple languages, posters and banners, stickers, etc.) but we were in need of volunteers to help staff our tables. MASSPIRG tapped into its network of students interested in becoming more civically engaged and were able to recruit several students who were motivated to help their peers become registered voters. Together, we were able to directly engage with dozens of MCC students, register many of them to vote, and spread the word about the upcoming elections.
All in all, our National Voter Registration Day events were a great success and they set the table for the rest of the semester. OCSL and MASSPIRG used our momentum from National Voter Registration Day to create additional opportunities for MCC students to register to vote on campus and to develop our Get Out The Vote efforts. Our next events were called “Every Vote Matters” and we were again able to combine our resources to help our students register to vote and learn about the midterm election. MASSPIRG was able to recruit additional student volunteers and OCSL provided staff as well as materials. In the end, we were able to connect with dozens more students and create additional buzz about the election.
As we approached the election on November 6, 2018, our organizations met again to discuss how we envisioned encouraging MCC students to make it to the polls. While OCSL and MASSPIRG were planning to engage students in a variety of ways, we made the decision to work together the week of the election to Get Out The Vote on campus. We held an event on each campus – one the day before the election and another the day of the election. At each event, students could check their registration status, learn how to find their polling place, and obtain nonpartisan information about the candidates for election and the ballot questions from the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s Office. Over the course of two days, OCSL and MASSPIRG discussed the election with more than 200 students on both campuses.
The partnership developed between OCSL and MASSPIRG is emblematic of the culture at MCC. MCC has worked to incorporate democratic values into the campus culture and encourages the type of mutually beneficial relationship described above. Having the ability to share our knowledge and resources allowed for each partner to have a larger impact, achieve our goals for the semester, and most importantly – provide additional opportunities for our students to become more civically engaged.